Such a simple concept. Re-Vision: To see again with fresh eyes, a fresh imagination.
Like spring cleaning, revision clears out the junk, improves flow, strengthens the story. It's manuscript Feng-Shui.
"Great," I say. "Let's get started."
I print a copy of the manuscript, eager to prune flimsy sentences; to root out squishy, uncertain phrases and give bold ones room to grow. It's easy at first; the 'weeds' both plentiful and obvious. I pluck out fluff, delete fillers, remove excess dialogue tags.
Then I read it aloud, checking for flow, marking verbal blips with my red pen. Because I'm ruthless, (or so I think), the manuscript soon looks as though I've attacked it with a Weed eater, each whip of the twine leaving telltale crimson stain.
After changes to the piece, I survey my handiwork. "Better," I say. "Stronger. Bolder." I dash off a copy, congratulating myself on my willingness to 'murder my darlings.'
But reading the newest version, I feel a knot forming in my stomach. Something is wrong with my beloved story. A hidden canker, perhaps. A slow, malevolent rot lurking below the surface.
This time the flaws aren't so obvious. Uneasy, I send the manuscript to beta readers. I show it to friends and critique partners in the hope someone will say, "Oh. Here's the problem." But they are kind, even complimentary. "Nice job," they say. "I like your protagonist. Good story."
Good. But not great.
How do you fix good-but-not-great? Start over? Add a new twist? New scenes? Change the point of view?
Suddenly I'm like Goldilocks wandering through the trees in search of the forest. What I need is perspective; a lofty surface from which to view my surroundings.
I think I found it yesterday when a friend suggested writing coach Margie Lawson's website. Though I've resisted the idea of checklists, formulas, or templates, I've seen how Ms. Lawson's approach to editing has strengthened my friend's work-in-progress.
"Stand up here," Margie says. "See this tree? Remove it. Cut this branch--but leave that one." Already the path is clearer. With renewed confidence I start on the new course, and soon pick up speed.
I'll let you know whether her method helps me locate a certain cabin in the woods.
Cheers...and Happy Writing!